On 8 October, a scientists’ panel convened by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after surveying more than 6,000 scientific studies, reported that the world is on course for catastrophic warming by the end of the century, due to carbon emissions.
And this same week the first UK site for “horizontal fracking” looks set to start in Lancashire.
“Fracking” pumps pressurised liquid deep underground to fracture rock, releasing natural gas. “Horizontal fracking” also drills sideways, accessing larger underground areas.
Globally, fracking puts more fossil fuels into circulation; is energy-intensive; and often leaks methane. Methane also drives climate change, like the carbon dioxide released by burning gas. And locally, fracking can cause small earthquakes and poison the water.
Opposition by environmental activists and local communities has delayed and limited the growth of fracking. Fracking is banned in seven European countries. Horizontal fracking in Lancashire was rejected at parish, borough and county council levels, and in an appeal.
The pro-fracking Tory government overruled local democracy and gave this a go-ahead. Local opposition continues.
Meanwhile, in late September, three activists were given 15/16 months in prison for “public nuisance”, and another got a suspended sentence. They participated in a four-day non-violent protest, halting a convoy carrying drilling equipment, causing traffic problems.
Imprisonment for peaceful environmental protests is extremely rare. It is being appealed on a human rights basis.
Anti-fracking protests in Lancashire have managed to delay fracking but have faced increasing repression, with over 300 protesters arrested since January 2017.
Climate activists, energy workers and the labour movement should work together to prevent fracking and ensure serious investment in renewable energy, creating many green jobs and a sustainable society.
The Labour Party leadership advocates banning fracking, but so must the broader labour movement. GMB, which represents most energy workers, supports fracking.
They argue that it creates jobs, and that using UK-sourced gas is best. A motion to reconsider this position fell at their conference this summer. Climate activists often fail to engage with the labour movement.
GMB leaders have previously urged that “police and judges should take a firm line with anti-fracking protesters”, saying that it is an issue of workers not being prevented from doing their jobs.
Workers are not being hurt or intimidated. Advocating increased repression against protesters will harm our class and the left in the long-run.
GMB should demand that workers are paid for the days they were due to work even if protesters prevented this, not side with bosses against protesters. Fundamentally, climate change will cause extreme destruction while investment in renewables could create more jobs. Trade union and Labour Party branches must call for the release of these activists.
Their struggle is a struggle for all our futures. The scientists report: “we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice...”
The Paris agreement resolved to keep warming below 2°C. The scientists say that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” changes in economic organisation, plus technological fixes to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is, as they say, “possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes”.
2°C will raise global sea levels 10cm further, flooding huge areas. It will melt vast areas of the Arctic. Coral reefs, 70 to 90% of which will go even if the temperature rise is limited to 1.5°C, will almost all (over 99%) be destroyed.
Once the temperature rise tops 2°C, there is a serious and increasing risk of a runaway effect, in which the results of global warming release more carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, and thus generate even more warming.
Each capitalist, and most capitalist governments, however, see more short-term economic gain for themselves in using fossil fuels. And, under capitalism, short-term profit for the ultra-rich governs life.
To turn the world round from the road to catastrophe, we need to support the environmental protests already underway, and to turn round the labour movement to fight for democratic and social control over the main levers of economic life.
• Saturday 1 December: Together For Climate Justice demonstration. Noon, London.